Craig S. Mullins
Database Performance Management

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April 1999

Computing News&Review
The Living Mainframe
By Craig S. Mullins
There is a lingering perception in some parts of the IT industry that the mainframe is dead. Nothing could be further from the truth. The market for mainframes and mainframe computing is healthy and, indeed, is growing.

The client/server bandwagon that swept through the IT world in the late 1980s and early 1990s threatened the existence of the mainframe. But organizations quickly learned that the scalability, performance, and reliability of large-scale mainframes was hard to duplicate. Today, most large organizations still rely on mainframe-class computers like IBM's System 390 for much of their mission-critical computing needs. The mainframe was not banished, but is a vital component of the overall IT infrastructure of most large corporations.

Mainframes have been around for a long time. As such, the glass house that was erected to provide the care and feeding of mainframes has proven to be one of the primary benefits of mainframe computing. Most IT shops are looking to improve manageability a and availability. The mainframe excels at these tasks not only because of the support infrastructure built around them, but because of the years spent by vendors such as IBM improving the quality and functionality of the hardware.

The mainframe of today is quite different from the mainframe of yesteryear. That hulking, water-cooled beast you may remember has been replaced with chip-based, CMOS, air-cooled systems. And today's mainframes are easier to hook together using parallel Sysplex technology. By adapting its technology when threatened by a new client/server paradigm, the mainframe has not just survived, but improved upon itself and thrived.

The Year 2000 problem was perhaps a bigger threat to the mainframe than client/server. Given the mainframe's long history and heritage, the predominance of year 2000 code problems existed in mainframe applications. Users, in some cases, replaced those systems with new applications that run on different, client/server machines. But only infrequently did shops swap out their mainframe wholesale for a completely new computing platform. If the year 2000 problem did not provide the push to do this, what will?

According to a July 1998 article in Information Week, more than 75% of internal data accessed by corporate PC users is stored on mainframes; more than 60% of all data available over the web originates from mainframe databases; and in 1997, 83% of all commercial transactions were processed by mainframes. The mainframe is a robust, reliable, and heavily utilized platform.

The reports of its death were greatly exaggerated.
From Computing News and Review,
April 1999.
1999 Mullins Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved.
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